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How Long Does It Take to Become a Doctor in Australia

How Long Does It Take to Become a Doctor in Australia?

by , 11 July, 2023
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This blog post aims to give you a simple answer as to how long does it take to become a doctor in Australia, focusing on the time frame but introducing some important extra information. If you are searching for more in-depth details on how to become a doctor in Australia, please check out our other article: Medical Pathways in Australia.
As someone who once wondered the same question, I know how draining (and boring!) it can be to wade through endless troves of information from reddit threads, blog posts and university websites. There are many different pathways to become a doctor in Australia, and the time required to go through each path can vary. I’ll try to simplify things for you by focusing on the key information.


How to Become a Doctor: Undergraduate Medicine


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There are two main pathways to becoming a doctor in Australia. Firstly, there is a direct pathway straight from high school to medical school at an Australian university. This is what people refer to as “undergrad med.”
For entry via this pathway, an applicant will need to have successfully completed a valid high school syllabus AND have a valid UCAT score. Depending on the university, applicants may have to attend a medical school interview as part of admissions.
These days (2022 entry and beyond), the medical degree is usually offered as a combined Bachelor of Science or Medical Science (BSc/BMedSci) and Postgraduate Doctor of Medicine (MD), such as at UNSW, University of Adelaide or Monash University. It used to be offered as a single MBBS (6-year course). Your GPA is typically very important if you plan to study medicine straight out of high school. Read our blog article to learn more about how to boost your GPA for medical school applications to increase your chances of being accepted into a medical school in Australia.
Currently, if you gain entry to this hyper-competitive path, the degree will usually take 6 years (e.g. at UNSW or University of Adelaide). However, Monash University in Melbourne is unique in that it offers the combined BMedSci and MD as a 5-year program.
So from start to finish, you’re looking at either 5 or 6 years in medical school. After this, you need to complete a 1-year internship at an Australian hospital to obtain full medical registration, and officially be considered a doctor!
As these are undergraduate degrees for school leavers, a typical student who graduates from this medical degree pathway might be 18 when they start, and 24 when they graduate, assuming they don’t take a gap year before university, and successfully pass every consecutive year. You might wonder whether passing every consecutive year at medical school is actually achievable or not. While studying medicine is a notoriously difficult path, it is certainly achievable. Check out our blog article on Things I wish I'd known before starting Med School to learn more.


How to Become a Doctor: Postgraduate Medicine


The alternative, second pathway is to complete a Doctor of Medicine (MD) as a graduate degree. This degree has been branded as MD for various reasons, including international recognition and to align with countries such as the USA. The degree is technically a Master’s level degree attainment and usually contains a research component, such as at the University of Sydney.
To gain entry to this degree, one will need a complete undergraduate degree of 3-year full-time equivalent credit points AND a valid GAMSAT score. Have a read here if you’re not sure what is GAMSAT. In addition, you may or may not have to interview for a spot in the graduate medical school. Some universities have science prerequisites for the undergraduate degree, but others such as the University of Sydney do not have such prerequisites.
With the exception of Monash, this degree will take 4 years to complete. With a 3-year undergraduate degree, this would amount to 7 years in total as a minimum until you graduate. If you add in a year for internship/registration, and this amounts to 8 years until you are a registered doctor in Australia.
I do know some people who completed their undergraduate degree in 2 years, which shaved a year off their 7 years in total to complete an undergraduate degree + postgraduate medicine. This is extremely rare though and whether you can do this depends on the university you complete your undergraduate degree with, so make sure to read our comprehensive guide on Australian Medical Schools if you’d like to learn more about this. There is NO way to shorten the 4-year MD however!

So, How Long Does It Take to Become a Doctor in Australia?

To conclude, if you’re aiming to become a doctor in Australia through the undergraduate route, you’ll need to spend around 5-6 years in medical school before dedicating 1 year to internship at an Australian hospital. If you’re taking the postgraduate route, you will need to spend 3 years to complete an undergraduate degree before spending 4 years at a medical school.
It might seem like it takes such an impossibly long time to become a doctor in Australia. It is true that this is not an easy path to take, but it is important to note that everyone has a different journey to medicine and a different duration spent at university. Some doctors may have had full careers in corporate before they see the light, and others may spend years travelling or doing other things like research. This is part of what keeps the cohort of doctors in Australia so diverse and helps them meet the demands of a patient population that is more diverse each year. If you choose medicine as your path, how long it takes is important, but what’s more important is commitment to yourself and others. So jump in!
Want to become a doctor in Australia but not sure where to start? Studying for the GAMSAT exam is a good place to start. Sign up for our GAMSAT Free Trial to get access to free MCQs, a week-by-week study guide, and a GAMSAT® practice test that mimics the actual exam in detail!